Mention the name of Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, and some people think of those Barack Obama-featured television ads that helped the 29-year-old win his party's primary back in March. Now, facing Republican opponent Christine Radogno and Green Party candidate Daniel Rodriguez-Schlorff on Nov. 7, Giannoulias talked with Windy City Times about everything from Downstate individuals to allegations of mob ties.
Windy City Times: The last time we talked, you said that you looked forward to campaigning Downstate because the people there look for conviction. How has it been?
Alexi Giannoulias: It's been going really well. There's a tremendous buzz going on. They're excited about someone with fresh ideas and about having a financial manager in the state treasurer's office. We've talked about ideas and putting forth initiatives, [ and ] the response has been tremendous.
WCT: Tell me about this ethics package [ instituted in September ] that's discussed on your Web site.
AG: It's the most comprehensive ethics proposal in state government. There's this black eye on Illinois politics and public confidence in elected officials is eroding. More than ever, we need an ethics proposal that puts an end to pay-to-play politics.
First of all, I will not take money from banks. Treasurer [ Judy Baar ] Topinka has been criticized for doing that. The banks that we deposit money into will have the best rates and return and [ we will consider ] banks that invest in their communities. Any contractors who does business with the treasurer's office will not be allowed to donate to the campaign. And anyone who bids $10,000 or more on a state treasurer's contract will have to list any and all contributions made to my campaign fund. Also, employees and lobbyists will not be allowed to donate. Everyone we've talked to is excited about this ethics proposal—and I want to point out that [ Radogno ] has not put forth any [ such ] proposal.
WCT: This proposal package came out before [ State House Speaker ] Mike Madigan came forth with allegations that you and your family's bank [ Broadway Bank ] having ties to the mob. [ Giannoulias agrees. ] Do you have any comment about what Madigan said?
AG: First of all, it's absurd and offensive that someone would say that we have ties to the mob. I'm a political outsider and an independent, and there are political insiders who have felt threatened by my candidacy from day one. They tried to knock us off the ballot, they questioned our petitions and attacked my family. What do we do? We win [ the primary ] by 24 points because people are tired of insider politics. People want new leadership.
It's ironic. The Speaker says that he demands answers, and yet he refuses to sit down and talk to me. For someone who says he wants answers and then to not meet with me sounds pretty silly, don't you think?
WCT: Do you think he's saying this because you defeated Paul Mangieri [ who had Madigan's support ] in the primary?
AG: I don't know; that's for political pundits and journalists to talk about. I felt that I was qualified for the office and I ran a very positive campaign. I didn't hurt anyone, I talked about ideas—and I won.
On a deeper level, this is a reason people don't get involved in politics. People try to get involved in public service, and they [ as well as ] their families get bashed. While I understand it's politics, it's a little disheartening.
WCT: Do you have any comment about what The Chicago Tribune concluded from an analysis—that some of your campaign's biggest contributors have received millions of dollars in loans from your family's bank?
AG: The contributions we've received are from family and friends, and whenever you decide you run for office they're the first people you go to. We're a family-owned business that's been [ around ] for years; we don't put pressure on anybody to donate to the campaign. And anyone who insinuates that there's a connection is [ doing something ] that should be considered slanderous. Again, it's still politics.
WCT: So why should the GLBT community pick you not only over Radogno, but also over Green Party candidate Daniel Rodriguez-Schlorff, who is openly gay?
AG: First of all, I think that we should have more people from [ the GLBT ] community in leadership roles. Kevin Thompson is my campaign manager, and my volunteer coordinator and policy advisor are also gay. I also think that it's important to note that [ Radogno ] has said that she will not apply domestic-partner benefits to people in the treasurer's office. That is disconcerting for me to hear; I believe that all employees in the treasurer's office are entitled to the same rights and benefits as employees in every other state office.
To be honest, I don't know of [ Rodriguez-Schlorff's ] stance on too many issues or what his financial background is. All I know is that the job [ entails ] investing $13 billion and that it's important to have a financial manager in the treasurer's office.